The Travails of Travel
Don’t you love that sign? It’s a big banner hanging high over the terminal in the New Orleans airport. Number One in liver transplants! That’s not saying much; hell, y’all are in New Orleans. It’s like Anchorage General bragging that it treats more frostbite victims than any other hospital in the country.
Anyway, I’m glad to be home, or close enough to home. I’m sitting in the airport here drinking a cafe au lait and waiting on my friends to pick me up. Dumb ass that I am, I woke up at 4:45 and got to Logan Airport in Boston in plenty of time for my 6:45 flight. But I didn’t hear the gate change announcement, and didn’t hear them paging me, so I missed my flight to Houston, with the connection in to Baton Rouge. United did right by me, and put me on the next Houston-bound flight. But the only Baton Rouge flight left with a seat didn’t leave until around 9pm! I would have spent 10 hours in the Houston airport.
Happily, a kind United lady in Houston found a seat for me on a New Orleans-bound flight, and here I am. As luck would have it, some friends are visiting us from Baltimore this weekend, and are in the city now eating at Willie Mae’s. They’re going to pick me up and head out to the country. So I lucked out. Boy did I luck out. A nine-hour layover in an airport. Holy cow, would that have been miserable. You can drive from Houston to St. Francisville in a little more than five hours.
There’s a point here. I knew my hearing was in decline, but this is the first time it had real consequences. My first job as a journalist involved part-time rock concert reviewing. I didn’t have the sense to wear ear plugs back then. Van Halen left me with tinnitis for two days. Here I am now, at 47, unable to hear very well when there’s a lot of background noise.
There was a lot of background noise in the airport, though not from travelers. Why does every public space these days have to provide a soundtrack? At least it was good music in Boston. In Atlanta, they have CNN turned up to Volume 11, and it’s everywhere. You can’t escape it.
It’s not just audio noise; it’s visual noise too. On the flight from Houston to New Orleans, the TV screen embedded in the back of the seat in front of us played commercials on a tape loop. We didn’t have to listen to them, but it was impossible to turn the TV off. The commercials flashed so much that I had to hunch over to avoid the distraction as I read my book.
Also, people who smack their gum — and it seems that 80 percent of gum-chewers do it — look like idiots.
And there are kids on my lawn.
I’m intend to damage my liver this weekend to compensate for my peregrination-related anxiety. There, I said it.